Security forces arrive at the central prison after an attack, in Sana’a, yesterday.
SANA’A: Eleven people were killed when attackers mounted a bomb, grenade and gun assault on the main prison in Yemen’s capital yesterday to try to free inmates, security sources and witnesses said.
Explosions and gunfire could be heard several kilometres away from the prison in northern Sana’a, which has Al Qaeda members among its inmates. The biggest explosion rattled windows in the area.
“A terrorist group attacked the central prison,” an Interior Ministry official said, according to comments published by the state news agency, adding there had been a car bomb followed by a gun attack on the facility.
“Guards managed to confront the terrorists and forced them to flee,” the report said.
Eleven people were killed, a security source said. The Interior Ministry official said seven guards were killed and two wounded, while several inmates escaped in the chaos.
No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but Yemen is grappling with a growing threat from one of Al Qaeda’s most active wings, which has killed hundreds of people in assaults on state and military facilities in the past two years.
Some Yemeni news websites said Al Qaeda was behind the attack.
Police sealed off the road to the airport, which runs through the neighbourhood where the prison is located, and thick smoke was seen rising above the area.
Earlier yesterday, a British teacher was reported missing in Sana’a in what a Yemeni security source suggested could have been a kidnapping.
A security official said unidentified gunmen captured the teacher on Wednesday evening as he returned from work. A Western diplomat confirmed the kidnapping.
The teacher, whose identity has not been revealed, works for the American education and training organisation AMIDEAST, the official said.
The gunmen took him to an unknown destination.
The US ally, with a population of 25 million, is trying to end nearly three years of political unrest, which began when mass protests erupted in 2011 against Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of 33 years, who stepped down.
Interim President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi has been facing other challenges in trying to restore stability to Yemen, which shares a long and porous border with Saudi Arabia. Yemen is trying to deal with demands by southern separatists for independence and to quell rebels from the Shia Muslim Houthi movement, which has been on an offensive to extend its control over the north.